Monday, October 24, 2011

Fear and Opportunity- turning the table on bullies



Fear and opportunity... we generally place a negative or defeating connotation on the word "fear." What if fear were a useful element. Perhaps it can be.

A recent conversation between fellow Nemeticists, Daniel Durrant (@ddrrnt), Michael Josefowicz (@ToughLoveForX) and I, led us to question the presence and value of fear in a complex adaptive system that is a school. Fear is rampant in education: fear of failure; fear of consequence; fear of authority; fear of bullying... fear in every case manifested as anxiety and stress. But what of a potential lack of fear... would this be a better state? Let's glare at the issue of bullying for sake of argument. Daniel made a profound statement worth analyzing...
"bullies prepare us for a world that will hurt us, but we want to prepare bullies for a world that will love them."
I know there is no shortage of people who will say this is an unfair and imbalanced trade-off, but I disagree. Every element of a complex adaptive system is engaged in the system in one way or another- that's what makes the system complex... but it's the manner in which these elements (let's just say people) adapt that ultimately determines the sustainability of the system. Fear is a biological condition with a purpose- when exposed to it we make a choice to fight or flee. Either way, the choice we make will determine the quantum direction our action will send us. Both decisions put us in motion. Robert Sylwester describes the reflexive and reflective properties of this process as related as in they're both triggered by fear... fear of imminent threat to survival, and fear of what is unknown, but not an imminent threat. In both contexts it's up to individuals to react as appropriately as possible to mitigate the fear.
Back to Daniel's statement, in the case of bullies who aim to invoke fear in others via their actions, the target of the bullies' behavior has to decide how he will react. Of course there are situations when the victim will have to react reflexively to preserve his own personal safety, and I would think it to be appropriate that bystanders would react reflexively as well in defense of the intended victim. I have to wonder though, is there a context for intended victims to fight back reflectively... I think there is.

A very caring, resourceful and creative bunch of people collaborated on this poster in September. It mirrors Daniel's sentiment about a world that will love bullies understanding that the vast majority of them were first victims themselves.


As I wrote in the original post that sparked the creation of this poster, perhaps reflecting on the pain and hardship that so many bullies share with us in so many aspects of life would provide a glimpse into the story behind the bully's story; the one we need to know if we are to help them deal with their pain so they can stop inflicting it on others. To move toward a more peaceful and accepting society, we have to make the unknown known. We have to enact the reflective properties of our fear to mitigate any escalation of the bully's behavior. We have to try to understand where that behavior is coming from in the first place.

To do otherwise in a complex adaptive system would simply be to accept the complexity of it without any effort to adapt. Pliability is key. Rigid barriers of emotion and cognition will not work if peace is the goal.


2 comments:

  1. Thanks for this great example to serve as a springboard to a critical discovery I made this morning by way of a dream (a gift of insight).

    Bullying is a form of oppression, which must be healed with kindness. These two are in a continuum one with another -- not the typical antonyms we might find for kindness, "cruelty, harshness, meanness". Not to suggest that we can change the bully (they have to do that themselves), but we must be engaged in self-healing in order to move through our cycle of resilience.

    See how it might apply in your own life. Consider anything that might be considered something that oppressed you in some way -- something that thwarted your ability to choose. The words "cruelty, harshness, meanness" do not effectively identify such a state. Oppression is something that I can use to identify the struggles my body presents me with. Oppressions are things that 'hurt' us and must actively be both recognized and healed. Knowing this, I'm far more likely to soak in an Epsom salt bath, even though intellectually I know it is good for me -- I tend to not bother. It takes on a different meaning when it becomes a 'kindness' to heal the oppression.

    The act of countering oppression with kindness is not an overt one to change others. It is merely a mechanism, a skill, a kata, for self-healing.

    I used these perspectives to effectively change a model that had 4 elements for which it suggested ignoring the 4th (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naikan). In this way the 4th now becomes the most important:

    + What kindnesses have I received from...?
    + What kindnesses have I given to...?
    + What oppressions have I caused for...?
    + What oppressions have I experienced?

    The significance of the changes in the latter is twofold: one, we don't align the oppression to anyone else; two, we need to acknowledge the oppressions in order to find a way to 'heal' its effect through a kindness.

    See if you can leverage the filters of Kindness and Oppression as a means by which to view and improve your life steps.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Bullying is a form of oppression, which must be healed with kindness."

    Consistent with the best religious understandings - as I understand them - from both the West and East. It lies at the base of Martin Luther King and Ghandi's approach. Either "Turn the Other Check" or "Non violence as a way of Life."

    The jump is to see that Verbal and School yard violence are part of the same pattern. It brings these deep understandings into every day life.

    In Nemetics the focus is on Impulse Control necessary before Exchange.

    "Exchange" in the physical world is Behavior. The type of Behavior is Domain Specific. A child can exchange Bullying Words or more likely in the absence of the facility of Words as a weapon of Power, acting out with some in appropriate physical action.

    "Exchange" in the cognitive world is the blame and shame to which we subject ourselves. It's often most difficult to forgive the bullying actions we ourselves have committed.

    As Paula so correctly highlights, it goes to "we need to acknowledge the oppressions in order to find a way to 'heal' its effect through a kindness."

    It's only by reacting to our own Bullying behavior with Care and Love, that we'll become the people we are striving to be.

    ReplyDelete

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